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Warfield Was Wrong

December 11th, 2023 | 64 min read

By James Wood

B.B. Warfield once famously described the Protestant Reformation as “the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the church.”[1] According to Warfield, the Reformers embraced Augustine’s anti-Pelagianism but rejected his anti-Donatism. I would like to suggest that Warfield was wrong, at least about John Calvin--who, I argue, largely agreed with Augustine on fundamental principles of ecclesiology. Calvin, especially among early Protestant Reformers, attempted to hold together the various aspects of Augustine’s teachings on grace. He appropriated Augustine’s anti-Pelagian theology and Augustine’s anti-Donatism.

Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan echoes Warfield’s quip, but draws attention to some key themes that advance our exploration. “The Reformation of the sixteenth century,” argues Pelikan, “has repeatedly, and to some degree accurately, been interpreted as a movement in which the anti-Pelagian doctrines of Augustine about the necessity of grace were used to attack the anti-Donatist doctrines of Augustine about the mediation of grace.”[2] 

What Pelikan helps us see is that the Reformation battles, on all fronts, were fundamentally about grace--because even Augustine’s key battles against both the Pelagians and the Donatists were waged over grace-issues.[3] Grace, for Augustine, can be looked at from two primary angles: with reference to God and with reference to us. With reference to God: grace is God’s freedom to act without any external necessity. With reference to us: grace refers to our universal need for divine action due most especially to the universality of sin. But there is one more key aspect to an Augustinian account of grace: it is mediated through divinely established channels. Pelikan explains that this leads to a paradoxical account of grace, which emphasizes three themes that don’t easily stick together and were split apart in various ways in successive centuries. The Augustinian paradox of grace is that grace is sovereign, necessary, and mediated.[4] Augustine’s battles with the Pelagians and the Donatists were over aspects of his account of grace.

One could make the case that the late medieval Catholic Church did take mediation too far, by divinizing its structures and overly mechanizing the distribution of grace through its sacraments, losing much of the Augustinian mystery about grace[5] and some of his more humbling teachings about the church. Over the centuries, the Western church increasingly abandoned, or at least downplayed, Augustine’s anti-Pelagian teachings on grace.[6] This became more clear in the Tridentine theology of the Counter-Reformation and then the later rejection of Jansenism, as a result of which, so argues Catholic philosopher Lezsek Kołakowski, the Catholic Church condemned Augustine and consigned itself to semi-Pelagianism.[7] But I would like to focus less on issues related to Pelagianism, since that is somewhat well trod territory in Protestant polemics. Rather, I would like to focus on Augustine’s anti-Donatist teachings about the church.

What should we make of mediation in Augustine’s theology of grace and its relation to the church? Some might object to this term “mediation”--that this over-emphasizes the role of the church. And yet grace and salvation are closely linked to the church. God, as sovereign, is certainly not bound by his instruments of the church and sacraments, but he has bound himself to them,[8] and something about salvation is intrinsically churchly. How does Augustine communicate this?

Augustine appropriates Cyprian’s language about the church as our mother, apart from whom there is no salvation.[9] Father God and mother church go together for us. Just as we were born first by male and female, so we are born again by God and church. If you love the Father, you must love your mother. Whoever offends his mother offends his father.[10] 

Augustine provides nuance to his more bold statements connecting salvation to the church. He, for instance, is willing to affirm salvation for figures like Job, the good thief, unbaptized martyrs, catechumens who die before being baptized, and those who are unjustly excommunicated.[11] However, he is emphatic that the church is a concrete and universal community brought into being by Christ, which Christians must humbly accept as the proper environment of faith. A Christian cannot despise the external life of the church. If one wishes to be part of the body of Christ, one is not allowed to leave the visible unity. “[H]e that forsakes the Church,” asks Augustine, “how is he in Christ who is not in the members of Christ? How is he in Christ who is not in the body of Christ?”[12] The church is Christ’s body. If you seek to be united with Christ, must be united with his body. And that needs to be a body you can see and touch, submit to and serve.

However, especially in light of his battles with Donatists, Augustine also espoused another angle on the church. It is not only part of the totus Christus, but also constituted as corpus permixtum.[13] It is a mixed body, composed of elect and non-elect, saints and those to be damned, wheats and tares. We are unable to unambiguously determine who in fact will be saved and who will not; only God knows. The presence of sin in the church is inevitable, because she is made up of humans. Thus, Augustine propounds a very realistic conception of the church, alongside his more idealistic language. This realistic framing of the mixed church is what the Donatists could not countenance. But this is the church we cannot leave.

The Donatists, you recall, started smaller and supposedly purer churches in northern Africa after the persecutions of Diocletian. Many priests had recanted the faith at that time, which forced the church to ask difficult questions about such things as the efficacy of sacraments from apostate priests, amongst others. The Donatists believed that the moral and spiritual failures of these priests had invalidated the ministry orders of the broader (or “catholic”) church and the sacraments administered by its priests. So the Donatists set up a “true church” without connection to the rest of the church. They thought that to avoid sin they had to avoid sinners in the church.[14] 

Augustine attacked the Donatists for a mistaken view of grace, for parochialism, for lack of love, and for lack of unity.[15] The church could not be confined to such a small place in the world. The presence of sinners does not contaminate the Christian and destroy the church. To leave the whole is disastrous.

Despite the severity of these errors, Augustine was at first quite charitable toward the Donatists and sought to play a mediating role in the conflict. He urged fellow Catholics to cool their tempers.[16] In deliberations he argued that the Donatists themselves had valid sacraments,[17] and proposed, for the sake of reunion, that Catholics should recognize Donatist ordinations.

Ultimately, this was all rejected, and eventually Augustine came to enthusiastically endorse the coercive measures by the civil power to forcibly bring the Donatists into the Catholic fold.[18] He saw how effective force was, and provided post hoc justification for it.[19] And this set the trajectory for strong coordination between civil and ecclesial powers to suppress heresy over the successive centuries.

How does this all relate to Calvin’s ecclesiology?

The first thing to note is that Calvin’s ecclesiology evolves quite significantly over his Reforming career. Interestingly, Calvin’s developments, thematically, reverse-mirror Augustine’s. Augustine started with firmly established ecclesiology and developed his anti-Pelagian doctrine of grace over time as he later encountered these grace-deniers, whereas Calvin, as a Protestant Reformer, launched his career in battle with grace-obfuscators, while his doctrine of the church is what underwent substantial development. Calvin shifts from an early emphasis on the invisible church to a later emphasis on the visible.[20] In his earliest writings, Calvin defined the church largely in terms of predestination, and launched his ecclesiological reflections from the invisible church, and argued that this was a key debate with Rome. But as Calvin’s theology matured, his focus pivoted to the visible church.[21] 

And here we see strong overlap with Augustine. In fact, Calvin, like Augustine, espoused a double-angled ecclesiology—on the one hand, the church is the whole number of the elect whom only God can see; on the other hand, the church is also an entity that is visible to human eyes.[22] The former is stronger in the earlier stages of Calvin’s career, but he never drops it. Calvin, like Augustine, affirmed a mixed church and remained vigilant against any conceptions of the church of the pure. Neither Calvin nor Augustine sought a pure church of only the truly converted. At the same time, like Augustine, Calvin, possibly surprising to many Protestants today, tied salvation to membership in the church through which Christ and the Spirit is at work.

This strong connection between salvation and the church is evident already in Calvin’s early debate with Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto in 1539, and only gets more emphatic in later versions of the Institutes. Sadoleto accused the Genevans of defecting from the truth and deserting the church.[23] Calvin’s letter displays, even at this nascent stage of his career, his conception of what constitutes the church, and why he and the Genevans could not be justly charged with schism. He argued that Protestants revere the church “as our mother, [and] so we desire to remain in her bosom.”[24] This language is retained and even more emphatic in the later editions of the Institutes. In the second version in 1539 he introduces a section on the church with reference to the visible church,[25] and in the third version in 1543, he makes his most significant developments on church polity that are retained in the final version in 1559.[26] 

Book IV, which is on the church, is the longest book in the Institutes. And it is framed as focusing on “The External Means or Aims by Which God Invites Us Into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Within.” In the opening lines of book IV,[27] Calvin appeals to the well-known definitions of Cyprian and Augustine on the church as mother and their teaching that there is no salvation apart from her.[28] Calvin explains that the church is the institution “into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children.”[29] Therein, Christians—as the adopted children of God—are “guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith.” He explained that the visible Church is the mother of believers, and from this he argues that Christians must glean from her nurture their whole lives. “There is no other means of entering into life,” Calvin goes on to say, “unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels.”[30] Mixing marital and maternal metaphors by conflating a statement from Jesus about the comprehensive and permanent union involved in marriage (Mark 10:9) with the famous quote from Cyprian about the absolute necessity of membership in the visible church for one’s salvation, Calvin says: “what God has joined, let no man put asunder,’ so that, those to whom [God] is Father, the church may also be Mother.”[31] 

Calvin is also emphatic about cultivating unity in the visible church.[32] And in Calvin’s life, we see his catholic, or visible unity, commitments played out. Early on he was involved with Martin Bucer in colloquies for potential reconciliation with Rome. When these ultimately proved ineffective,[33] Calvin turned his attention to unity with Protestants—who at least shared a core commitment to the lordship of Christ over the church, which Christ governs by his Word.[34] He devoted serious labor to this cause, and one could argue that he is the most catholic Reformer (at least alongside early Protestant leaders such as Bucer, Phillip Melanchthon, and Thomas Cranmer). Calvin tried to reconcile Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli on the eucharist, engaged in sustained communication with Heinrich Bullinger to articulate a formula on the eucharist that would satisfy the Swiss and the Lutherans, and was open to Anglican reforms—arguing that many liturgical matters were adiaphora[35] and even expressing openness to episcopal polity.[36] 

Calvin was always sensitive to avoid charges of schism.[37] In his debates with Sadoleto, who accused the Genevans of schism, Calvin emphatically rejected these charges and argued that it was the Roman leaders, actually, who were the schismatics, since they had rejected Christ’s authority by inventing deleterious doctrines and practices[38] and had diminished the glory of Christ in their disregard for justification by faith.[39] But Calvin was, even then, careful to express charity toward the Roman Church. He claimed that there were elect persons, and that his war was with the leaders who had rejected the truth and usurped Christ’s authority over the church.[40] Calvin explained that he never wished to leave the party of Rome and had an eager desire for unity.[41] “My conscience told me how strong the zeal with which I burned for the unity of thy Church, provided thy truth were made the bond of concord.”[42]

Then in the Institutes, Calvin’s opposition to schism is emphatic. He says, “[It] is always disastrous to leave the church.”[43] In leaving the whole, one loses something which is vital to Christian nurture—thus, Christians are obliged “to cultivate the communion” of the universal visible church.[44] A Christian’s hope for future inheritance is tied to unity with all other members under Christ, our head.[45] Calvin goes on to argue that God’s commitment to unity in his church is so strong that “he counts as a traitor and apostate from Christianity anyone who arrogantly leaves any Christian society, provided it cherishes the true ministry of the Word and sacraments.”[46] The consequence for schismatics is a “separation from the church [which is simultaneously] the denial of God and Christ.”

Calvin’s convictions about ecclesial unity and his opposition to schism are largely why, throughout Calvin’s career, he adamantly avoided association with the Anabaptists,[47] whom he considered true successors to the Donatists.[48] He argued that they had no legitimate reason to separate, and to make this case, he developed a distinction between essentials and non-essentials in doctrine.[49] This also helped him deal with the Romanists. He had to specify the qualifications of a true church in a minimal manner in his pursuit of church unity that did not entirely abandon truth. His qualifications for a true church are minimal—where the Word is truly preached and sacraments rightly administered.[50] On this basis, he argued that the Anabaptists were schismatic, for they had no legitimate grounds for separating from the evangelical churches; though those churches were imperfect, the marks were retained.[51] 

Calvin was charitable in what constitutes a true church: the marks and fundamental submission to Christ through his Word. Furthermore, Calvin espoused the need to exhibit charitable judgment toward others, and thus, as mentioned above, he articulated a scale of doctrines. According to Calvin’s charitable ecclesiology, some disputes do not break the unity of the faith, and therefore division over nonessential issues forsakes the church. To predicate union upon comprehensive theological concord renders catholicity impossible. To require doctrinal purity for ecclesial recognition will resign the church to oblivion, for “[i]f we are not willing to admit a church unless it be perfect in every respect, we leave no church at all.”[52]

Thus, Calvin was also quite flexible in his formulations and willing to compromise on secondary doctrines.[53] His unity efforts with other Protestants were the product of his high view of the church as the body of Christ and mother of believers.

However, Calvin was clear that this must not come at any cost. When “falsehood breaks into the citadel of religion and the sum of necessary doctrine is overturned and the use of the sacraments is destroyed,” the situation is different: the marks of the church are then affected, a church has perished, and a false church has emerged.[54] This was Calvin's justification for separating from Rome, which he argued was not an abandonment of the church. “[Apart] from the Lord’s Word,” argued Calvin, “there is not an agreement of believers but a faction of wicked men.”[55] Unity without submission to Christ who rules through his Word is not true catholicity. To remain in union with a fellowship which has abandoned Christ as its lord is, effectively, to abandon Christ. Thus, Calvin called Rome the schismatics, because they had departed from the Word and fundamental submission to Christ as Lord over the church. I would also add: they were schismatic also because they, especially evident in Trent’s anathemas, denied the Christian status of Protestants and the validity of their churches and ministry orders. In this the Romanists were being more Donatist than Augustinian.

Calvin exhibited more charity toward the Romanists, analogous to Augustine’s posture toward the Donatists (at least in Augustine’s early engagement with them). Calvin conceded that even in Romanist churches God had preserved some remainders and traces of the church in baptism, and true Christians, and even true congregations.[56] He argued that the church of Rome had not diminished completely; but was a “half-collapsed edifice.”[57] He perceived the Reformation task as “build[ing] up the integral edifice again so that the visible church would be once more the ‘true Church with whom we have to keep unity.’”

In all of this, Calvin retained Augustinian commitments. Calvin even does so in some of his views on the relationship between the church and civil power—for good and for bad. Calvin’s involvement in the consistory[58] is similar to Augustine’s involvement in the bishop’s tribunal,[59] both of which dealt with common social issues and regularly challenged civil power to act more Christianly. We also know Calvin wasn’t entirely opposed to using civil power to suppress heretics[60]—and on this point he was still all too Augustinian, unfortunately. We do not have space to analyze the Servetus affair, but let us simply remark here: for Calvin, the issue was more focused on the civil effect of obstreperous heretics.[61] More so than Augustine, Calvin explicitly developed the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical power and thus he fervently sought to secure the right of church discipline to remain in the domain of the church. Here, I think Calvin improves on Augustine. Calvin would not support the use of state force to bring Christians into the same body.[62] This was not at all how he pursued other Protestants, Catholics, or Anabaptists. He developed a robust two-kingdoms theology[63] that enshrined the use of spiritual means to discipline Christians when they strike against the faith, and temporal means to punish, discipline, and deter those who disrupt the civic sphere. As Calvin developed his theory of church discipline, he argued that elders have no coercive authority or jurisdiction; they possess only the spiritual sword of the Word of God. Ecclesiastical power must be distinguished from force, coercion, and domination.[64] 

But Calvin also benefited from the vantage point of centuries of ecclesiastical aggrandizement for which Augustine could not account. Papal supremacy turned ecclesiastical authority into a tyranny[65]—over secular power and the consciences of Christians. Calvin was tasked with delineating the church’s authority in its proper limits, and under the authority of the Word of God alone. [66]

Augustine also did not have to face a situation in which the church broadly appeared to have abandoned the truth by obscuring the central doctrines of grace.[67] As stated above, it can be plausibly argued that the late medieval and early modern Catholic Church condemned Augustine’s doctrines of grace (as it pertains to his anti-Pelagian teachings) and also slipped into idolatry with the corrupt worship practices associated with the Mass and excessive veneration of saints and icons.[68] These are largely post-Augustinian developments. What must one do in such a scenario? Calvin had to explain that communion with such a fellowship is not possible. According to Calvin’s assessment, the Catholics had left the church; they had become practical Donatists, alongside their semi-Pelagianism.

Calvin began his career in a situation in which the broad church had abandoned Augustine’s doctrine of grace, which Calvin tried to retrieve while also trying to retain Augustine’s doctrine of the church.

Here we might observe a tension in Augustine’s thought. In his masterful study of political and ecclesiological themes during the transition from late antiquity to the early middle ages, Francis Oakley explains that Augustine “developed his doctrines of the church and of grace independently of one another and at different points in his life.”[69] By the time he wrote his first treatises against the Pelagians, he had long since developed his anti-Donatist doctrine of the church. When he brought them together, there remained some tension between them and they were not perfectly harmonized in a coherent fashion. In his writings on grace and salvation, Augustine “was moved to define the church as the invisible body of elect known to God alone;” in his writings against the Donatists, “it was the visible, institutional church that was emphasized as the necessary vehicle of salvation.”[70]

How were these themes carried forward by the medieval church? Little attempt was made to reconcile these teachings of Augustine. The anti-Donatist teachings became orthodoxy, whereas his views on grace and predestination were carried forward hesitantly and only with modifications.[71] The church still affirmed man’s inability to secure his salvation, but it burdened the human person with the responsibility of cooperating with grace to properly merit salvation, leading to confining grace’s dispensation to those channels called sacraments, whose efficacy is understood ex opere operato. This “modified version of Augustine,” which underpinned “the power and prestige of the priestly hierarchy, would “form the bedrock of medieval orthodoxy.”[72]

Reformed Protestants today need not only this polemical reminder of why the late medieval Catholic Church was wrong in its abandonment of Augustine’s teaching on grace. We also need to retrieve the Augustinian ecclesiology that Calvin espoused.

We need a strong sense of the church as the body of Christ and mother of believers, closely tied to saving faith.

If you are not convinced of this need today, consider the recent uproar over John Piper’s comments on this front. In an interview, Piper was asked what he would say to someone who, after enduring abusive church leadership, might say, “Pastor, I’m not going to walk away from Jesus, but I am done with the church.” Piper replied, without hesitation: “If you do that, you’re walking away from Jesus. … To say that I love Jesus but I don’t submit to his word, is a lie. Jesus founded the church.” The figure online who first shared this clip that went semi-viral concluded with this remark: “It kind of seems to me that the protestant reformation was reacting against this need for church institutions to Access God.” Many repeated this logic in similar statements. But this runs far afoul of Calvin. Piper is right. Most contemporary Protestants have abandoned Calvin’s Augustinian ecclesiology. They have, unfortunately, lived down to Warfield’s characterization.

Furthermore, most contemporary Protestants don’t share at all Calvin’s commitment to visible unity among true churches.[73] As Calvin himself discovered, there are no easy answers here. But he never gave up the project, especially among Reformed churches. Let us imitate him on this front.

Protestants need Augustinian ecclesiology today; but really we just need Calvin. We need to reject the dangers of Anabaptist Donatism in which we continue to further fracture from true but imperfect churches in the pursuit of a pure church—or, rather, usually just in pursuit of a church that suits our preferences on secondary issues. And we must absolutely reject the anti-institutional spirituality that plagues so many evangelicals today who reflect nothing of their Reformational forebears.        

The Reformation was a gift to the church. It was a retrieval of Augustine’s doctrine of grace and, especially in Calvin, it did not come at the expense of Augustine’s fundamental doctrines on the church.[74] Our challenge is to pick that thread back up once again.

Footnotes

[1] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956), 322.

[2] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 331.

[3] Pelikan makes this abundantly clear in The Emergence of Catholic Tradition, 308: “Of the many ‘heresies’ against which Augustine defended the Catholic faith, the two most virulent were Donatism and Pelagianism, both of which deal with the doctrine of grace.”

[4] This is Pelikan’s summary. See The Emergence of Catholic Tradition, 306.

[5] See Pelikan, The Emergence of Catholic Tradition, 298, 302, 328-329.

[6] See Pelikan, The Emergence of Catholic Tradition, 329.

[7] See the essay, “Why Did the Catholic Church Condemn the Teaching of Saint Augustine?,” in Leszek Kolakowski, God Owes Us Nothing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

[8] See Pelikan, The Emergence of Catholic Tradition, 302.

[9] See Augustine, Baptism, 4.17.24.

[10] See Augustine, Sermon 22.9-10; Exposition 2 of Psalm 88.14.

[11] See the section, “The Extent of the Church: Church from Abel,” in Tarsicius J. Van Bavel, “Church,” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 169-176.

[12] Augustine, “Homily 1 on the First Epistle of John,” 1.12. https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170201.htm

[13] These emphases are summarized well in Tarsicius J. Van Bavel, “Church,” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).  

[14] For an overview of the Donatists, see Robert A. Markus, “Donatus, Donatism,” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999); see also chapter 19 in Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), and chapter 7 in Henry Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks, 2001).

[15] See Maureen A. Tilley, “Anti-Donatist Works,” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).

[16] See Augustine, Letter 93.17; Letter 185.25. See also the discussion of Augustine’s early efforts of moderation and conciliation in chapter 7 in Chadwick, Augustine.

[17] This is evident throughout Augustine’s work, Baptism.

[18] For a discussion of how Augustine came to embrace and defend these methods, see chapters 20, 21, and 28 in Brown, Augustine of Hippo.

[19] See Francis Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism: Kingship and the Divine in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (to 1050) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 135.

[20] For instance, in the final version of the Institutes (1559), Calvin’s discussion of the invisible church is quite brief, and he quickly turns to devote most of his attention in his massive fourth book to matters related to the visible church.

[21] For summaries of this shift in Calvin’s ecclesiology, see Dorothea Wendebourg, “The Church in the Magisterial Reformers” in The Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology, edited by Paul Avis ( Oxford: Oxford, 2018), 231-235; chapter 5 in François Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, translated by Philip Mairet (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997); Harro Höpf, The Christian Polity of John Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 30-35, 54, 66ff, and chapter 5, especially. For a groundbreaking new work that engages in-depth analysis of all sorts of shifts in Calvin’s ecclesiology, see Tadataka Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology: A Study in the History of Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2022).

[22] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, edited by John T. McNeill, translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), IV.1.1-4.

[23] See John Calvin, “Letter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto,” republished in A Reformation Debate: John Calvin and Jacopo Sadoleto, edited by John C. Olin (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), 57.

[24] Calvin, “Letter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto,” 62.

[25] See Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 302ff; 380.

[26] See Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 379ff, 443; chapter 5 in Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin.

[27] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.1.

[28] See the discussion in Wendel, Calvin, 294. See also Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 418, 421-422. Maruyama draws attention to the fact that Calvin dropped the Cyprianic language about denying salvation outside of the church that he had previously employed in earlier editions of the Institutes. However, Calvin retains in the footnote even in this edition the quote from Cyprian: “You cannot have God as your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” Thus, when Maruyama later argues (on page 421), that Calvin’s reference to the church as mother is simply quoting Gal. 4:26, he seems to neglect the footnote that draws explicit attention to Cyprian, and also Augustine.

[29] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.1. The following quotation is also from this section.

[30] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.4.

[31] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.1.

[32] I explore this theme in some depth in an essay published by Ad Fontes. https://adfontesjournal.com/church-history/calvins-complex-ecumenism/. See also the summary in Wendel, Calvin, 101-107.

[33] See Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Mediaeval and Reformation Europe (New Haven: Yale, 1981), 364.

[34] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.2.4. See also Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 103-105; John T. McNeill, Unitive Protestantism: A Study in Our Religious Resources (New York: Abingdon, 1930), 180.

[35] See I.J. Hesselink, “Calvinus Oecumenicus,” 87. See also Gordon, Calvin, 260. According to Gordon, the “externals of worship” were consistently treated with a “charitable spirit.”

[36] See See McNeill, Character of Calvinism, 217; Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 109-110; Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 83.

[37] See Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 363.

[38] See Calvin, “Letter to Jacopo Sadoleto,” 69-73. He lists and discusses the Mass, the law of Innocent, intercession of the saints, and purgatory.

[39] See Calvin, “Letter to Jacopo Sadoleto,” 64-66.

[40] See Calvin, “Letter to Jacopo Sadoleto,” 75, 85.

[41] See Calvin, “Letter to Jacopo Sadoleto,” 54, 85: “Always, both by word and deed, have I protested how eager I was for unity.”

[42] Calvin, “Letter to Jacopo Sadoleto,” 86.

[43] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.4.

[44] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.7.

[45] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.2.

[46] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.10. The following quotation is also from this section.

[47] See Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology, 290, 302ff; Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 21.

[48] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.13; IV.1.23; IV.12.12. See also Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 86.

[49] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.12. Calvin declares that the doctrines of absolute necessity are: “God is one; Christ is God and the Son of God; our salvation rests in God’s mercy; and the like.” See also Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 85-90.

[50] These “marks” are found already in Calvin, “Letter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto,” 63. Though, at this early stage, Calvin includes discipline as a mark, which he would later drop. See the lengthy discussion of the “marks” in Institutes, vol. 2, IV.18-12.

[51] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.12-13.

[52] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.1.17.

[53] See John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 229.

[54] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.2.1.

[55] Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.2.5.

[56] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.2.12.

[57] This is the translation provided by Wendebourg in “The Church in the Magisterial Reformers,”  235. The following quotation is also hers.

[58] See Scott Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); David Fergusson, “Politics, Society, and Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology, edited by Michael Allen and Scott Swain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 592-593; chapter 8 in Gordon, Calvin; and chapter 4 in Maruyama, Calvin’s Ecclesiology. See also the partial publication of the consistory records: https://www.alibris.com/Registers-of-the-Consistory-of-Geneva-in-the-Time-of-Calvin-Volume-1-1542-1544/book/38857023?matches=17.

[59] See chapter 17 in Brown. See also the section “Bishops’ Civil Jurisdiction” in Robert Dodaro, “Church and State,” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).  

[60] See Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 146.

[61] See Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 119, 202-203.

[62] See Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 120.  

[63] This theme is intently explored in Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin and Matthew J. Tuininga, Calvin's Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church: Christ's Two Kingdoms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

[64] See the section, “Ecclesiastical Power,” in chapter 5 of Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin. See also pages 190ff.

[65] See Calvin, “Letter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto,” 57; Wendel, Calvin, 305-306; Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin, 35-55.

[66] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.8.8; IV.8.13; IV.10.6.

[67] See Calvin, Institutes, vol. 2, IV.2.6.

[68] While Augustine received the tradition of honoring the martyrs, he also deprecates its excesses. See City of God, VIII.27; Letters 22.1,.6, 29.9, and 36.9.1; Answer to Faustus, a Manichean, 20.1.

[69] Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism, 139.

[70] Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism, 140.

[71] See Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism, 140; Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, 329.

[72] Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism, 140.
[73] This is a theme I explore somewhat in-depth in James R. Wood, “Christ’s Body is One: Resources for Reformed Catholicity in John W. Nevin’s Incarnational Ecclesiology,” Journal of Reformed Theology 14, no. 1-2 (2020): 73-99.

[74] In fact, Heiko Oberman has summarized Calvin’s principal achievement as building on Luther’s retrieval of grace by championing the “churchly dimension of the triumph of grace.” See Heiko Oberman, The Two Reformations, edited by D. Weinstein (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 123.

James Wood

James R. Wood is an assistant professor of theology and ministry at Redeemer University (Ancaster, ON). He recently defended his dissertation on the political theology of Henri de Lubac at Wycliffe College (Toronto). Previously he worked as an associate editor at First Things, a PCA pastor in Austin, TX, and campus evangelist and team leader with Cru ministries. His writings have appeared in various academic and popular publications, and they focus primarily on matters pertaining to political theology, ecclesiology, and sacramental theology.